April 28, 2009

Service Learning

Filed under: Youth Rights — Katrina @ 10:10 am

Alright, this is another one of those entries that most of my NYRAnian friends will be wanting my head on a platter for, but screw those whiny idiots, I’m saying it anyway.

I really don’t have a problem with the student service learning hours that are required for a high school diploma.

“Oh, WTF, Katrina?! We thought you were a youth rights supporter! How can you be okay with being forced to do community service?”

Funnily enough, the main difference here is how I’m choosing to look at it. It’s not forced community service, or at least calling that misses the point. It’s more a very freeform homework assignment.

But let’s look at this actual SSL thing, shall we? Over the course of the four years of high school, in order to get your diploma, you must complete 60 hours of community service (give or take location or whatever, that’s just what it was when I was in high school). What kind of community service? You know, it’s pretty much just about anything you want! Camp counselor. Help out with some old people at a nursing home. Environmental cleanup. Museum or zoo volunteer. And a lot more. I don’t know about you, but these all sound like educational and rewarding things to do. Not to mention that 60 hours over the course of four years is rather painless.

In fact, seeing as it does involve getting out in the “real world” and doing some real good, as opposed to the usual scholastic requirements of working endless math problems and memorizing the minutest details in a Victor Hugo book, I don’t really see why it’s a problem, let alone that I sort of wonder that school should be a lot MORE of this service learning stuff! I mean, most of the libertarian naysayers on the NYRA forums hate the above-mentioned endless math problems and literary memorization, yet somehow they think it’s still superior to a community service project. To them, it’s just forced labor, “slavery”, an excuse to make you work without being paid for it.

But, who cares what they think since they’re too busy jacking each other off with their pie in the sky beliefs in abolition of compulsory schooling and public schools (a whole other load of bullshit I’ll tackle another time).

It’s true, though, school needs serious improvement. The list of things wrong with it would extend across the country even using five columns and 8pt Times New Roman. But the thing is that not everyone can agree exactly on what things really are a problem, and even if there were any semblance of agreement there, you realize no one can agree on what a viable solution would be.

So I’ll be realistic here and see school for what it is, an educational institution in which you’re given required tasks for the purpose of learning in order for you to achieve the prize (diploma) once you’ve finished it. And student service learning is just another one of those tasks, and perhaps by far the most educational and inspiring and freeform of them. Which, if I recall, is something we all believe school needs more of.

So, yeah, why are we supposed to be against this exactly?


  1. The opposition, I think, is that school’s won’t reduce homework by sixty hours over four years. Even though it’s freeform, it’s still MORE FUCKING TIME dealing with school.

    Comment by maxh — April 28, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  2. Goddammit. That was supposed to be ‘schools’ not ‘school’s’. I should fucking know not to put an apostrophe just because there’s a goddamn ‘s’.

    Comment by maxh — April 28, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  3. There are, essentially, two problems with “service learning” that distinguish it from homework proper.

    1. It is (effectively) compulsory labor. Yes, homework also requires time and effort. But the purpose of homework (in principle) is one’s own benefit. Students do not do homework for the benefit of those who receive it. Service, by contrast, is for the benefit of whomever is being served, not for the benefit of the student.

    One might argue that the service is neither compulsory nor uncompensated. After all, a student may be forced to attend school, but he isn’t forced to earn the diploma. I’m too tired to argue this right now, but it seems unpersuasive.

    One might also argue that service is for the benefit of the student, because it builds character. But that is actually my second problem with service:

    2. Service programs tend to inculcate an ideology of subordination. The ideology of service is often that a person has no right to live for his own sake, but must live for others/the community. Programs built on this principle try to make people believe that what they do for themselves (learning) is unimportant; moral value lies only in what they do for other people (service). This is evil.

    While the obedience required elsewhere in school also teaches a form of subordination, and a lot of reform is needed there too, a lot of the control is directed either toward one’s own good (you must do your math homework so that you learn math, which you will need in later life) or toward the rights of others (you may not attack another student).

    This second problem could be addressed by a very philosophically careful service program, one designed both to ensure that the overt ideology is oriented toward the student’s own flourishing and that the experience itself is empowering. I have further work to do on this point.

    Comment by Alexander — April 28, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  4. I don’t quite agree with the idea that the service learning isn’t for one’s own benefit. Not all education and inspiration comes from scholastic book learning (as no youth rights supporter should need be told, hehe), and the service learning provides a separate platform for all that. It varies depending on the actual project, but there is self-benefitting value there. Community involvement does a lot of things for people. Not to mention that having young people out doing these projects puts them more in public as opposed to being warehoused in school and kept out of the sight of most adults. Youth being more out there and engaged in community projects requires adults to deal with them on a somewhat equal basis, which works wonders in combatting anti-youth sentiments.

    I also don’t see how SSL teaches subordination, any more than the rest of school does anyway. Unless we have different definitions of subordination? And where are you getting that this makes doing things for yourself unimportant and doing things for others the only important thing? BOTH are very important! Leaning too far into yourself or away from yourself is equally “evil”.

    Comment by Katrina — April 29, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  5. So your argument is that it’s kinda sorta less bad maybe, so you’re all for it? PROTIP: The lesser of two evils is still evil.

    Comment by TrustNoOne — April 29, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

  6. Nah, there’s good in it, as I’ve already laid out. What I’m seeing is school having an assignment that involves some sort of “real world” experience, something we’re often complaining that school does way too little, and because of the wide variety of volunteer opportunities out there, it’s not difficult to find one you’ll enjoy and is at least somewhat related to your intended career. Not to mention that you do sort of gain job skills out of it (again, something we all know school generally does not do).

    If you want to continue seeing this as evil and slave labor, well, you’re more than welcome to of course, but you sort of have my pity (and I’m sure I have yours, so I guess we’re even, hehe). 😉

    Comment by Katrina — April 30, 2009 @ 10:49 am

  7. As much as I admire your ability to be damn near dillusionally optimistic, (I’m not joking or making fun of you, I seriously envy you for it) I don’t see the government doing us any favors. What they’re doing is taking a nasty, reeking, loose, mexican food shit in box, wrapping it up in pretty pink paper, putting a bow on top, and calling it a present.

    As for the claim that SSL provides more real world experience than classroom learning and would therefore make a great substitute of sitting in a classroom, I agree with you. If they wanted to take the 8 am to 3 pm school day, shorten it to 8 am to noon, and use the time from noon to 3 pm for community service, I’d favor it. But alas, they don’t. They expect you to sit there from 8 am to 3 pm, then leave and do more school shit. So SSL is pretty much code for more homework.

    What we have here is pandering. They tell the oxygen-wasting retards the rest of us normal people call the drug war crowd that SSL programs will save kids from the horrors of smoking the occasional joint, so they’re on board.

    They tell the bible thumping, banjo picking family values hillbillies that it would save kids from the possibility of a social life and well-adjusted adulthood, so they can marry a cousin and live down on the farm until they die.

    And then you have the commie libs, who support this sort of thing because they’re, well, commie libs.

    Comment by TrustNoOne — April 30, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

  8. I might support it if it weren’t an increase in time controlled by the school. They can give us 100 fewer hours of homework per year to make up for the 100 hours spent in forced volunteering (which is still a ridiculous concept, but so long as they’re forcing students to do something it may as well be this).

    Comment by maxh — April 30, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  9. Reducing homework by the amount of time required for SSL would definitely be good, I can agree with that. Or at least stop requiring homework to be done (like some college classes do), just assign it and discuss it the next day, but never actually grade it, just have it as test prep.

    Comment by Katrina — April 30, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  10. I seem to remember someone saying “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”.

    Oh, sorry, I forgot. Youth is a crime.

    Comment by Nulono — May 1, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  11. So, is voluntary servitude not an option?

    I mean, it’s not like I learn more from pricing thrift store goods (what I did when I had to) than from my various jobs with NYRA that I have only been able to do outside of school.

    Comment by Conor — May 12, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  12. Of course voluntary is an option. And they should definitely expand the number of eligible service options students can choose, so that NYRA stuff can count.

    Comment by Katrina — May 13, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

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